Big Coal Scores on Wyoming’s Public Lands


“Then the coal company came with the world’s largest shovel,
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken,

Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.”
—John Prine

Paging Tim DeChristopher.

Today the Dept. of Interior announced that they’d be making coal-rich tracts of lands available to the mining industry in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Leasing bids worth somewhere between $13.4 billion and $21.3 billion and producing 758 million tons of coal.

Citing political unrest in the Middle East Interior, Secretary Ken Salazar said “we ought not be subjected to the ups and downs of what happens in the Middle East or in Libya, so part of it is moving us towards an energy-independent America,”

Why do I get the feeling that some sleazy corporate lobbyists are seizing some opportunities behind the scenes.

Salazar also said that nuclear energy is still part of America’s energy future. But, Japan’s nuclear meltdown seems to be a bit of a boom for the coal industry. Stocks are up and the future looks bright for dirty coal after years of progress made by environmentalists.

Big coal corporations make the continued use of public lands sound like it’s contributing to society’s progress, but really why can’t we have leadership rise to the top who finds energy solutions not rooted in destructive strip mining?

Wyoming is the reddest of the red states, but if anything, it’s time for more red state organizing. We’re in a long struggle to keep coal in the ground and fight for communities most impacted by extraction.


Scott Parkin is a Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network and organizes with Rising Tide North America. He has worked on a variety of campaigns around climate change, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mountaintop removal, labor issues and anti-corporate globalization. Originally from Texas, he now lives in San Francisco.

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